I’ve been fortunate in my life, to have amazing family members, teachers, and friends. They’ve inspired me, taught me, and helped me be a better person.
One of those people is my best friend, Sean Plott. If you’re at all into e-sports, especially StarCraft II, you’ve likely heard of him. Going by the handle Day, Sean’s done a daily web show called the Day Daily. He’s nearly hit 500 episodes, which is insane given how much time he spends travelling to cast StarCraft II tournaments (commentating on matches like a baseball announcer) or to take part in panels at conventions like PAX and SXSW. Along the way, he’s picked up a few other accomplishments, like being named to the Forbes 30 under 30.
I met Sean at Harvey Mudd. I was a junior then, and living in what we called the Halo Suite. Me and three other guys had grabbed a suite of two rooms connected by a bathroom, moved all the beds and desks into one room, and turned the other into a gaming lounge with TV’s, XBOX’s, and couches. A bunch of guys were practicing for their first pro Halo tournament. I didn’t play Halo at the time, but I’d been a competitive RTS player for years, and I knew the transition from playing with friends to playing with strangers for money was going to be a shock. It’d be like a recreational tennis player walking up to a division one level tournament, and discovering for the first time what 110-mph kick serves look like. People got that, when it came to sports. I’d never met anyone who got that when it came to video games, not then.
That day, Sean came over to check out the suite. Someone introduced us. “Hey Tristan, meet Sean, he’s a frosh. He’s really good at StarCraft.”
“Oh, cool,” I said. “I’m pretty good too.” Meanwhile, I’m thinking something like, yeah right, good like the guys in the other room think they’re good at Halo.
A minute into our conversation, I knew I was wrong about that. He wasn’t good, he was really good. Maybe one of the best in the country. At that point I was thinking something along the lines of: Holy Shit, I need to hang out with this guy.
The Halo guys went to their tournament and had a pretty good learning experience. Sean went to a tournament that year too – got 2nd at the World Cyber Game nationals, which qualified him for the grand finals. There, competing against the best players in the world, he made top 16.
I remember the first time I watched Sean play StarCraft. Now, intellectually knowing someone is better than you is one thing, but seeing it is another. I might have acted humble about my StarCraft skills, but inside, I thought I was pretty awesome. I’d been playing for a long time. I’d topped some ladders, done well in some online tournaments, beaten a lot of pretty good players. Sure, maybe I wasn’t about to go pro, but I could hold my own. I’ve worked hard on my game.
Back then, when people watched me play StarCraft, they’d be blown away by my hand speed. I played at around 140 actions per minute (APM), give or take, at that time. That means I average 140 mouse clicks or key presses per minute.
Sean played at well over 300 APM. He wasn’t just faster than me, he was accurate. Every click was precise. My 140 APM was at like 80% accuracy; his 300 was at 99%. He could maintain that every game, for hours at a time. If you don’t know StarCraft well, it was nearly impossible to even tell what he was doing. I’d say my emotional path, while watching him play, went something like this. First there was jaw-dropping awe. Then: crushing depression. I was nothing. I shouldn’t even be in the same room as him. I wasn’t worthy.
After, I went back to my room. I fired up a game, and I thought – fine, maybe I can’t be as good as him. But I can keep improving. Let’s see if I can play even faster. Let’s see if I can up my accuracy.
Sean and I hung out occasionally at Harvey Mudd, but not a ton. College was busy. I graduated, and went on to the Ph.D. in mathematics program at the University of Oregon (which I talked about in my last post). There, I started to play a lot of online poker. Sean had picked up poker too, and was doing really well. As anyone who’s played poker knows, nothing beats calling a friend and talking about hands, whining about how unlucky you got, or celebrating each other’s victories. We started calling each other on Skype to do just that. Then, we got the idea of going to Las Vegas together during Spring Break, with a third friend of mine. At one point in the trip, I ended up getting very emotional (over something that most people wouldn’t consider a big deal at all). Sean spent hours walking the dingy hallways of the Imperial Palace with me, talking and listening. After that, I didn’t just feel better – I had a new close friend.
Every post I’ve made on this blog began as a seed in a conversation I’ve had with Sean. I remember, I asked him how he’d gotten so good at StarCraft. He said he found his weaknesses, one by one, and crushed them. I’ve thought about that ever since. It’s shaped how I learn, how I improve, how I think. Such a simple idea. Find your weakness. Eliminate them. But man is it hard to implement. It requires brutal honesty about what those weaknesses are and hard work to eliminate them.
That’s how I’ve tried to proceed with my writing. Been at it for nearly three years now. Lots of bumps along the way, lots more on the road ahead. But by talking through them with Sean, figuring stuff out together, forging ahead toward my goals and his, I’m getting better. I’ve learned to be happy with where I’ve gotten but not satisfied with where I’m at, to push through and be better and better and better. Watching him succeed so much at his own endeavors has been the best inspiration for my own.
But Sean’s got a talent for that. He’s got this energy, this aura, this something, and what’s brilliant is it’s not just reserved for those who know him personally. He can show that to total strangers, to people who only see him on the screen. You can see it in his fans, when they line up to get their picture taken, to get his autograph, to talk to him for a moment. He inspires them, too.
Nothing exemplifies that more than what he did a couple years ago, for his 100th episode. He describes it himself as “Hear about my life of Starcraft, its downs and ups and everything in between.”
You should watch it. If you don’t know anything about games, or if you do. It’s one of the most touching, inspirational things I’ve ever seen, right up there with the James Owen stuff I talked about in my last post. It’s about how games are more than games, how the communities and relationships we build over them are as lasting and rich as anything else. It’s got 3 million views. You don’t need to know anything about games to appreciate the message. There’s a pretty good chance it’ll make you cry, but they’ll be good tears. Watch it here.
I want to reach people like Sean does. To make them feel something with my stories. I want to teach them, and to learn from them. It’s what he does every day. My friendship with him has taught me I’m capable of doing that too.
(If you’d like to check out more of Sean’s content beside the amazing 100th daily, his archives are available at www.day9tv.com. He’s also casting the NASL season three finals this weekend, which you can check out over at http://nasl.tv/)